We don’t mind talking about our disease, but we don’t want to be defined by it.
We don’t often see ourselves as disabled just misunderstood.
We don’t see ourselves as battling limitations. We see ourselves as fighting to destroy stereotypes.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Lipman, Cystic Fibrosis Survivor and Author of The CF Warrior Project.
Andy Lipman has cystic fibrosis, but cystic fibrosis will never have him.
On his 38th birthday, Andy passed the current median life expectancy for people with cystic fibrosis (CF). At 46, his life expectancy now exceeds the expected. Andy is a positive role model, who defied all odds to become a college graduate, Olympic-torch bearer, runner, advocate, author, husband, and father. He is dedicated to finding a cure for the genetic disease.
Andy’s fourth book, The CF Warrior Project: 65 Stories of Triumph Against Cystic Fibrosis, celebrates the people from around the globe who, like him, persevere and live life the fullest every day even though they have a terminal, invisible disease. The CF Warrior Project is more than a book, it is a movement.
Andy has two written memoirs telling his story battling the long odds of a CF diagnosis: Alive at 25: How I’m Beating Cystic Fibrosis and The Drive at 35: The Long Road to Beating Cystic Fibrosis. In addition, he wrote A Superhero Needs No Cape about a young person who grows up wanting to play Major League Baseball, but he must do so while fighting cystic fibrosis.
Andy is also dedicated to finding a cure for this invisible, terminal disease. He and his family founded the Wish for Wendy Foundation in memory of his older sister, who died from CF after only 16 days of life. As of 2019, the foundation has contributed more than 4.5 million dollars to help raise awareness for cystic fibrosis and fund research for a cure.
Andy has run the 10-kilometer Peachtree Road Race every year since 1997. He also runs and adheres to a rigorous daily workout routine. He has also finished a triathlon and completed the difficult ninety-day workout program P90X.
Andy currently lives in Atlanta, Ga., with his wife Andrea and their 14-year-old daughter Avery and 12-year-old son Ethan.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I was born with cystic fibrosis in the early 70’s. When I was born, the median life expectancy for someone with my disease was 16 years. My sister passed away as an infant from the disease 3 years before I was born. I have learned to defy the odds. I have written four books and am working on a fifth. My team and I have raised over 4.5 million dollars for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation while starting the Wish for Wendy Foundation in memory of my sister. I’m now married with 2 kids and I am 46 years old. I’m also a gym rat and ran with the Olympic Torch in 2001.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?
I was born disabled and ill, but I don’t think of myself as either. I just see myself as someone who fights for every breath and cherishes each one too. I think for a long time (until the end of my college years), I saw myself as sick and disabled and it did me little good. I’ve learned to focus on the good things and take one day at a time.
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness?
Some of my greatest accomplishments are writing 4 books, raising millions for charity, running with the Olympic Torch, and being a board member for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. My two favorites though are marrying my best friend Andrea in 2002 and having two amazing children through In Vitro Fertilization.
What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?
First off, limitation is a subjective word. You may not be able to do things like other people, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have dreams just like everyone else and perhaps reach the finish line just a bit differently than your peers. As far as disabilities, they give us the opportunity to create legacies and help others. Seems like a pretty cool thing to have to me.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I have a lot of people who have made a difference in my life. My parents helped me early on. My younger sister has been an amazingly supportive person throughout my life. My wife, though, has to live with me every day and she has taught me the essence of being a warrior. Andrea has fought both cancer and multiple sclerosis. She rarely worries about whether life is fair or not. She just focuses on her family and makes us all better people.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I think forming Wish for Wendy in memory of my sister is the biggest thing I’ve accomplished. I’ve had a lot of support too. Also, starting the CF Warrior Project to give people hope and inspiration in the CF community has played a big role in my life and I believe it has changed so many people’s lives.
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.
- We don’t mind talking about our disease, but we don’t want to be defined by it.
- We are okay listening to your problems, and we don’t feel like your problems are not as bad as ours…we just have different perspectives based on our experiences.
- We don’t often see ourselves as disabled just misunderstood.
- We don’t see ourselves as inspirations, but we love the opportunity to inspire others.
- We don’t see ourselves as battling limitations. We see ourselves as fighting to destroy stereotypes.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
Here is a favorite of mine. John Quincy Adams: “Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.” My dad always told me to give it everything I have and regardless of the results, I will never regret my effort.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this.
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Michael J. Fox. He has proven that anyone can conquer a disability. I love what he does with his foundation. He’s a great man. Also, I’m a huge “Family Ties” and “Back to the Future” fan and the movie that my wife and I talked about often when watching during our youth was his first: “Midnight Madness.”